Some mornings I stand in the buff and look at my pregnant body with so much admiration. I’m creating another life and my body knows exactly how to do it. Organs, little ears and tiny limbs are all being made by me – and I guess my husband helped a little too. 😉
Then there are mornings that turn into entire days where I look at myself in the harshest light. Yes, I know I’m pregnant and yes, I know my body is not mine right now, but I still feel bad about it. I feel horrible even writing that, because it doesn’t reflect how excited I am to have another child. I feel guilt just thinking that!
Obviously pregnancy stimulates a wide range of feelings about the body. Those who have been pregnant and are pregnant know exactly what I mean. Our culture, especially among certain social classes, makes no secret of how very important it is that women “get their bodies back” instantaneously. Too little attention is paid to why our bodies morph the way they do during pregnancy. We hold onto the baby weight for a reason, because it serves both the baby and mother.
Body shame in our world today is prolific and it leaves women (pregnant or not) feeling stymied. Pregnancy can be especially disorienting in so many ways. I for one, have felt an immense amount of anxiety and at times, depression about how I’m coping with my growing pregnant body.
After receiving a heartfelt and thoughtful DM from a childhood friend this morning, I felt inspired to write on this topic. My friend is pregnant with her first child and is feeling a lot of the things I felt while pregnant with Gia and how I feel now.
The other day my friend who DM’d me posted a photo to her Instagram page. The photo was a shot of her and her beautiful growing bump. She told me that when she was posting the picture she was so scared of what people would think about how she looked. She also went on to say how awful she felt for feeling that way because she was doing something amazing, growing her baby.
Like me, my friend has maintained a healthy routine through her pregnancy by working out, eating healthfully, while still allowing herself a splurge sometimes. Balance right?? Regardless of her efforts and mine to treat our bodies with kindness during this time, we have both beat ourselves up over our weight gain.
After messaging her back, we were both in agreement that we are doing the right thing for ourselves and our growing babes, but regardless of all that, our bodies are going to do what they’re going to do. For my friend that means more weight in her lower half than she’s used to or prefers. For me, that means having a cup size to rival any Victoria’s Secret hottie, as well as a growing lower half.
If I’m being honest, this picture makes me look smaller than I think I really look. Again, I was also hesitant in even sharing this photo. These pants are doing their damnedest to keep my bulging body parts in, but this is my version of six months pregnant.
We are all different people and all have different pregnancies. Sometimes it’s hard for me to not look at other pregnant women and be envious of their seemingly perfect bumpin’ belly and looking so petite everywhere else. I need to remind myself that those women and myself are totally different. I am a six foot tall athlete. I have been athletic my entire life. I’m going to look very different than a woman who is 5’4 and who has never played collegiate sports.
This weekend I even found myself comparing my six months pregnant body to a petite woman who was 15 months postpartum. How ridiculous is that?! First of all, I’M PREGNANT. Second, I was almost a foot taller than her with a totally different body type.
I really had to reel my thoughts back in this weekend. I also am constantly reminding myself that being pregnant is hard in so many ways. I’ve had an especially challenging time navigating my thoughts on body image through my last pregnancy and this one. I’ve mentioned briefly in a previous post that I did have an eating disorder towards the end of college. I was in the thick of under eating and over exercising. Because of all that, my last year I was unable to continue to play softball due to so much weight loss. Everything important to me, including my identity, was taken away so abruptly. (At some point I’ll share the full story about this, but that’s a post for another day!)
I am fully recovered from that dark time in my life, but it’s a constant battle to silence the negative and disordered thinking that I practiced for so long. I know that it will be something I need to be mindful of for my whole life, and that’s especially true right now, even while pregnant.
I think what I really want to say is we all have a struggle. Many times that struggle is silent and we feel very alone. This post proves that I’m not alone in my complicated feelings about my pregnant body, and neither is the friend who reached out to me. We both worked hard for our healthy pre-pregnancy bodies and we will both work hard to have healthy postpartum bodies.
We all need to give ourselves some grace and remember we have one body. Be kind to it, fuel it properly, appreciate all that it is capable of and be grateful.
After having Gia I’ve realized that life just goes by faster with each passing year. I can’t get hung up on putting pressure on myself to lose baby weight from this second pregnancy by a certain time. I should be more concerned with maintaining my good health to raise equally as healthy daughters, who I hope will one day love their bodies unconditionally. Like I’ve always said, God has given me girls so I never slip back into disordered eating and so I can teach them how their bodies are strong and perfect exactly how they are.
My tips to anyone who is struggling with body image during pregnancy:
Acknowledging You’re Body is Being Borrowed – Your body is in a major transformation process. Perhaps the negative feelings you have about your pregnant body may be about something other than the actual body surface, or in addition to it. Investigate your feelings and acknowledge them. Remember pregnancy is not permanent and is such a small blip of time in your whole life. Try and look at the good during this time.
Notice Self Talk And Feedback From Others – Comparison is the thief of joy and shame based internal chatter is a recipe for unhappiness. There will always be unsolicited comments about your pregnant state. Try just accept the comment and not think too far into it. Opinions from others about your bump are truly irrelevant, unless coming from your doctor. Keep doing YOU and say “screw those people!” (And I say that in the nicest possible way! Lol!)
Acceptance – Acceptance, especially body acceptance, during a time where you’re scared that your body will forever be enlarged is tough. Here’s what I’ve realized through both of my pregnancies….worrying does not modify what may or may not happen to my body through these wondrous months. Preoccupation with my body has never brought anything fruitful and steals joy from the present moment. It’s not fair to me or my family. Keep your eye on the prize – that end result, your baby!
Focus On Being A Role Model – Being gentle on myself as I navigate body image concerns serves as an ideal template for me to parent from. I don’t want Gia and her little sister to ever treat their bodies the way I have treated mine. I’ve been cruel to myself in the past and don’t want to teach that. As I journey through motherhood, modeling what it means to be a strong woman is what’s most important.
This little girl and her growing sister are the ones that I do all of this for. They make me stronger, happy and oh so proud. Little eyes are always watching.
And that’s all I’ve got! I think this post serves me more than others. It’s something I should reference back to when I’m feeling not so great about myself. I need to practice what I preach, and by writing it for all of you to read I’m holding myself responsible for following through with my words.
Hopefully someone who reads this can relate in some way. Remember we are all made perfectly the way we are and that’s what’s truly beautiful.
3 thoughts on “The Skin I’m In: Thoughts About Body Image During Pregnancy & Beyond”
You are so beautiful! I love this message and it’s so important for all women hear this loud and clear. Our bodies may never be the same, but that’s okay, look what we received in return. I truly believe in all the points you made. As women we need to pick each other up when we are feeling bad -no body shaming tolerated. 💞
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Thank you Lisa! Give ourselves time and grace to be back to our normal selves after baby. We did something amazing that took time and it takes time to get back to where you want to be!
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